Updated: Sep 15, 2018
Fountain pens conjure up a lot of images: writers with inky fingers, old-time detectives taking down notes, pages of flowing script that are just begging to be read. I could go on, but I realize that I'm probably cutting into your game time, so I'll keep this brief and informative. Consider it a crash course on fountain pens for the uninitiated.
What is a Fountain Pen Anyway?
No, they don't involve fluffy feather quills like in Harry Potter. Basically, a fountain pen is the big brother of quills or metal-tipped pens that are also known as dip pens.
As the name "dip pen" implies, they must be dipped into a bottle of ink in order to write with them. The first dip pens were made of reeds, and for thousands of years, they were the standard writing tool that eventually usurped the clay cuneiform and wax tablets. While great fun at first, eventually our forefathers as early as the tenth century A.D. demanded better writing instruments than the dip pens that involved a lot of, well, dipping. They also wanted a pen with less maintenance, so they invented an amazing little thing called the fountain pen. I call them dip pens on steroids, because that's exactly what they are.
Fountain pens write much the way dip pens do, with one very big difference: the ink is inside of them, just like our modern-day pens. No double-dipping here! They have little cartridges inside of them that can be filled and re-filled with any ink color you please. In my opinion, that alone makes them enticing, but here are my top reasons why I use them.
I Grew Up with Them
As a financially-deprived child growing up in the 1980s, I often had to turn to the creative arts for entertainment. By the time the '90s rolled around, I naturally gravitated to any craft project at home or at school, particularly drawing. My fifth-grade art instructor introduced us to the fine art of calligraphy, and once I began, I refused to stop. For three years, I used what my class had practiced with, the cheap, sort-of-efficient "calligraphy markers" that screamed "Historically incorrect!" even to my eleven-year-old brain. At thirteen, I begged my mother to buy me a "real" fountain pen, as my 8th-grade English class was assigned a writing project that required their use. She did, and as I unwrapped that Shaeffer pen from its packaging, I just knew I had made a new friend, one that would serve me well as I penned my first diary, practiced the uncial hand, and transitioned to high school, where I stumped my teachers with my very unusual cursive script that looked like it had been penned centuries ago. No girly bubble-writing from this chick (I know you know what I'm talking about)!
Once I made fountain pen a habit that bordered on obsession, I began to realize something that the "pen muggles" didn't; fountain pens save you money! The average bottle of good-quality pen ink is about $10-$15. If you have to refill your fountain pen twice a month, it might take take you six months to a year to use up that bottle. Even if you use two bottles a year, I guarantee you are still spending less on ink than you would on high-quality rollerball pens. In addition, each fountain pen refill means there is one less plastic pen entering the landfills, so they are environmentally-friendly, too! We don't need any more pens floating around the ocean, or the fish will start cornering the best-seller market. Who needs that?
Marks You as a Writer
Along with the humble typewriter, fountain pens were once part of a writer's toolbox, because who wants to write the great American novel in pencil, right? Ballpoint pens weren't very mainstream until the 1950s, so your trusty fountain pen was there to help you out, possibly as a family heirloom as well as your writing tool of choice. Some notable writers use them now, including Stephen King (who owns about sixty) and Christopher Paolini.
Uses are Not Only for Writers
I bet you thought it was just the writers who had all the fun, right? Write? Oh, you're an artist? Well, here's a new-but-very-old-writing-tool for ya! You can do calligraphy, enhance your anime frames and more with a trusty fountain pen by your side. Or, click here for more ideas.
I hear a lot of complaints about arthritis in the hands and wrists, and I'm sure I'll hear a lot more as our time spent with computers increases. One of the best things about fountain pens is that they require so little pressure to write with, minimizing the strain you'd feel and the force required with a traditional pen. Every ballpoint with the exception of gel-rollers make my pinky finger cramp up after extended periods of time. As my day job entails a lot of hand and wrist strain, I don't need to add to the problem by using a pen that I will eventually want to throw across the room.
Ink Stands Up to Time
If you're writing or signing a document that you want to last for ages, use a fountain pen. The ink intensity can last decades, sometimes centuries, and the thicker lines make for better visibility for those of us with bad eyes. You know how they say our sight declines with age....
I greatly enjoy the connection I feel with generations of fountain pen users before me. Being absolutely bonkers about history, I can experience a small part of my life the way people of old once did. In a crazy sort of way, I feel like I'm telling them that I appreciate what they went through to make life easier for our generation. Because they went through hell; maybe not with pioneering new writing instruments, but in other ways. I'm sure I don't need to elaborate.
Improves My Handwriting and My Self-discipline
My handwriting is very temperamental. However, the beauty that my cursive acquires when using a fountain pen is akin to Cinderella's dress after her fairy-godmother sends her off to the ball. My fountain pen makes me want to write. Writers are always finding excuses to put off their writing projects, but sometimes a little thing like a favorite pen can mean the difference between a finished novel and a pile of Post-it! notes that will never be turned into a finished project.
Excellent Conversation Starters
"What kind of pen is that?"
"Holy crap! Is that a fountain pen?"
"I didn't know they still made those!"
"Can you give me a tattoo?"
Fountain pens tend to be the life of the party wherever they go. They've become so "old" that they're new again, and that puzzles people. Luckily, they have you to answer all their questions. Spread that fountain pen love. Who knows? You might just make a friend, one who might start a very successful fountain pen business and will give you special the-one-that-started-it-all discounts!
They're Just Fun, Okay?
They really are. Believe it or not, they're growing in popularity. You don't need to look further than Pinterest to see some of the coolest pens on planet Earth. Why would you want to write with this...
...when you could be using something like this:
For me, the choice is obvious, but we're all different. And that's okay! My Nana always says "We're all different like flowers," so what kind of flower are you? I'm the kind that shoots ink when mean people get too close!
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